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Urban farming: A solution to food deserts?

Urban areas are known for high population density, high land values and, in some areas, a shortage of fresh, nutritious food. Sometimes these areas are referred to as “food deserts,” and they are getting increased attention from public policymakers and fresh food advocates.

Over the past decade, we've seen the rise of city farmers’ markets – a place for farmers to bring in truckloads of freshly picked vegetables and fresh or frozen meats to sell to local consumers. Other unique alternatives have also been popping up to grow fresh produce right in cities.

Indoor farming

Some city dwellers are turning to small-scale, indoor farming to grow fresh, leafy greens and herbs for their personal use. Tutorials on how to build a hydroponic farm at home can also be found on YouTube. While these efforts can help the individual grow a number of fresh foods, its capacity is limited. A more robust system is needed to grow fresh, healthy food on a more widescale basis.

Rooftop gardens

Rooftop gardens may be one way to achieve this. There are companies that specialize in bringing raised beds and rooftop gardens to homeowners and businesses alike. For example, a Massachusetts-based rooftop garden company used this technique for an installation at Fenway Farms, and the produce grown is used right in the ballpark. Other examples are companies like Whole Foods, which have installed rooftop farms allowing for on-site growth of fresh, organic foods in their stores.

Freight Farms

Another unique concept popping up in some cities is to retrofit old shipping containers into hydroponic growing systems for herbs and leafy greens. Such systems can operate outside a restaurant or hotel, in the backyard of suburban homes or even inside a warehouse. Crops have the ability to mature every three weeks or so, with even less time needed for sprouts. These climate controlled containers can supply nutritious greens year-round and in close proximity to the consumer.

These systems can cost around $80,000, with extra investment needed for infrastructure, such as water, electricity and site leveling, but with dedicated attention to crop growth and marketing, can be profitable within a few months.

If you are thinking of exploring an urban farming opportunity, be sure to give Farm Credit East a call. Our team of ag-specific loan officers and consultants can help you achieve your dream with the resources and a financing plan that makes sense for you. Contact us today!

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